Sunday, 19 July 2009

Character Study: Zalanda Eritsuro

Zalanda being snooty, from page 21
If you've been reading my art blog for a while, you're probably familiar with my comic series, Green Corner. Zalanda is the primary antagonist of the series and the older sister of Aena, the protagonist. You can read Zalanda's character bio on the Green Corner site.

There are certain subtleties to the character relationships in Green Corner. Of course, I want the characters to have depth and be interesting, but I also want them to seem like they could be real people aside from the fantastic setting. I draw some inspiration from my own experiences for that kind of natural feeling, but none of the characters are really modeled after anyone I know. Aspects of their personalities may be similar to people I know, and some of the things they say may be quoted from life; but that's as far as it goes.

Zalanda is a character that I find a lot of people are drawn to at first. I think my character design for her is very successful in this regard. She's beautiful and curvaceous; she's got the kind of look that other girls and women are envious of (even if they won't openly admit it).

One of the things that bothered me growing up was the image of the female ideal that girls are exposed to. Zalanda is very much a commentary on how that type of image can be hurtful to the self-esteem of other girls. Girls are incessantly told and shown that the ideal woman is thin, with a small waist and large breasts. No matter how much you may try to tune it out, when an often impossible to achieve image is out there that much, it only encourages a division and sometimes an elitist attitude from people who feel that they are more important because of their physical appearance alone.

There's nothing wrong with taking pride in your appearance, of course. But there is a difference between caring about how you look and being elitist about your looks.

For Green Corner, I made a point of making Zalanda the gorgeous older sister with an abrasive personality. She has a sharp tongue and never hesitates to speak her mind. She can seem rather cruel and dismissive. That's an intentional commentary on how a supposed ideal of female beauty says nothing about a person's worth or personality. External beauty is only physical.

It may seem strange for me to say this, since I'm a visual artist and a graphic designer; but I don't think that physical beauty adds a great deal more value to anyone. I don't think that a physically beautiful person deserves more good fortune than a person with average looks.

Zalanda, bored when the attention isn't focused on her. From page 23.
Like Zalanda, a woman can look beautiful on the outside but also be a sour, selfish, petty person. Zalanda knows when she's being hurtful, but she doesn't care about the feelings of others for the most part. She is the type of person who craves attention and will bully others in an attempt to gain power over them and distract from her own flaws.

She is very much a combination of female bullies I've met in my life. She spreads lies, shuns people she dislikes, and leads the crowd for no apparent reason. She is superficially popular. Others may envy that for a time, until they come to the realization that she's not the type of person you want to emulate in terms of actions and/or personality. Rather, she's the type of mean girl that other girls are glad to see fall flat on her face in a sort of karmic retribution.

Self-worth is an objective thing, a personal thing. Improving your appearance for yourself is great, but doing so for attention from others could indicate you need to look more closely at your self-esteem. In Pathfinders, a friend of mine was once asked by one of our Leaders why she was wearing makeup at camp, as there were no boys around. My friend smartly retorted that she was wearing makeup for herself, not for boys. Experiences like that that really made Guiding memorable for me, and encouraged me to feel better about myself. WAGGGS is a great thing for girls and women to become involved in.

Green Corner is very much a series about teen girls, for teen girls. I have specifically developed characters such as Zalanda to encourage teen girls to think more about what it means to be physically attractive, and if it needs to mean much for them. But I also want girls reading the series to take comfort in characters like Aena who are openly frustrated and envious of the supposedly ideal body image. Aena sometimes finds it annoying to be dismissed as "cute" in comparison to her voluptuous sister. Like a lot of girls, she worries and feels insecure about herself at times; despite being genuinely well-liked by many people, skilled, and charming.

Zalanda making feeble excuses about teasing her sister, while Aena is unamused. From page 22.

It's a normal thing, but it can feel very isolating when you're a teenager. We need more positive influences for girls and women. We should be giving more encouragement to appreciate our own achievements and assets. Being a teen is hard, you will probably struggle and stumble many times. But don't forget that you are worth something, regardless of the nonsense written in magazines. If you really think about it, you already know how amazing you are.

Other things to check out on the topic of self-esteem and the feminine "ideal:"

The introduction of Zalanda and Kasha. The contrast of the antagonist and the celebrity. From page 10.
  • Dove's campaign for real beauty – a refreshing campaign that encourages girls and women to recognize that beauty comes in many shapes and sizes. I love that this campaign is honest about Dove products too and doesn't make exaggerated claims about moisturizer making you look youthful. A moisturizer promotes healthy skin, nothing more.
  • Girl Guides of Canada is a wonderful organization for girls as young as five through to adulthood that promotes knowledge and self-esteem. Outside of Canada, check out the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (go to the "Our World" section to find the member organization in your country).
  • Sex, Lies, and Photoshop a commentary video from the New York Times about the extent of Photoshop retouching in magazines and whether it should be disclosed.
  • David Airey is a professional graphic designer and discussed Sex, Lies, and Photoshop on his blog previously. I'm glad to see that both genders are concerned about the topic of retouching and how it encourages negative self-esteem.
  • The Photoshop Effect blog post by Sarah of Diet.com is a companion to the video of her experience on a professional photo shoot and having her image retouched. There's also a second video where Sarah and experts further discuss retouching.

What do you think about the topic of the feminine "ideal?" Any more articles or videos you'd recommend? yecrqwzm7f

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Hi! My name is Emily.

Welcome to my art blog. I am an independent graphic designer and illustrator from the Toronto area. I create print and web solutions for a variety of businesses and individuals with a personal touch and conscientious approach.

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